After 70 years the aircraft was found in the Sahara desert. This is an RAF fighter Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk. Despite the great time that has passed the airplane is complete and with only some damage.
The plane was reportedly flown in 1942 by Sergeant Dennis Copping at age 24. The young man had orders to bring the aircraft to a British basein Egypt but never reached its destination. Exactly why he did not reach the base is unknown but there is bullet holes in the fuselage.
He was hundreds of miles from civilisation, lost in the burning heat of the desert. Second World War Flight Sergeant Dennis Copping took what little he could from the RAF Kittyhawk he had just crash-landed, then wandered into the emptiness. From that day in June 1942 the mystery of what happened to the dentist’s son from Southend was lost, in every sense, in the sands of time.
The finding will be taken to an aviation museum in London, but since the discovery has been difficult to keep secure and the site has been picked at with pieces missing. The chance find was made by an oil worker exploring a remote region of the Western Desert in Egypt. It is more than 200 miles from the nearest town in a vast expanse of largely featureless terrain.
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The Tomahawk was superseded in North Africa by the more powerful Kittyhawk (“D”-mark onwards) types from early 1942, though some Tomahawks remained in service until 1943. Kittyhawks included many major improvements, and were the DAF’s air superiority fighter for the critical first few months of 1942, until “tropicalised” Spitfires were available.
DAF units received nearly 330 Packard V-1650 Merlin-powered P-40Fs, called Kittyhawk IIs, most of which went to the USAAF, and the majority of the 700 “lightweight” L models, also powered by the Packard Merlin, in which the armament was reduced to four .50 in Brownings.
P-40s first saw combat with the British Commonwealth squadrons of the Desert Air Force (DAF) in the Middle East and North African campaigns, during June 1941. The Royal Air Force’s No. 112 Squadron was among the first to operate Tomahawks, in North Africa, and the unit was the first Allied military aviation unit to feature the “shark mouth” logo, copying similar markings on some Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 110 twin-engine fighters.
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